Imperfect Thriving with Kathryn Ely | PoP 450

Imperfect Thriving with Kathryn Ely | PoP 450

Do you want to figure out your limiting beliefs? What are some things you need to consider when working on your big idea? How can you refine your message?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Kathryn Ely about how she went from being a lawyer to a licensed counselor, fighting limiting beliefs and thriving imperfectly.

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Meet Kathryn Ely

Kathryn Ely is a licensed counselor and a Purpose & Productivity Coach. She spent years as a lawyer and then stay-at-home mom helping others go out into the world and live their best lives. While this was very important to her, she did not realize that she was losing herself in the process.

Kathryn went back to school and earned a Masters Degree in Clinical Mental Health and now has a counseling & coaching practice in Birmingham, Alabama. She also hosts a podcast where she helps woman what they want their life to look like.

Visit Kathryn’s website and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest and listen to her podcast.

In This Podcast


  • Going through the motions
  • Women in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s
  • How women can discover their value
  • The 8 domains
  • Going beyond the practice
  • Refining your message
  • Imperfect Thriving

Going through the motions

There were a lot of limiting beliefs and alot of things that tried to get in my way, but ultimately it was the greatest thing I’d ever done.

As a recovering attorney, Kathryn realized that she was just going through the motions and putting all her time and effort into helping her husband and children live their best lives. Two of her children were going to college soon and she didn’t want to go back to being an attorney. She had to dig deep and figure out what to do for herself personally so she went back to school and obtained a Masters Degree in Clinical Mental Health.

Women in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s

Many women display feelings of anxiety, living unfulfilled lives and attempting to remain perfect constantly.

  • Do not dismiss the value of self-care.
  • Create time for things that bring pleasure and joy.
  • Value yourself.

How women can discover their value

  • Discover and overcome limiting beliefs.
  • Identify what you want your life to look like by looking at these areas.
  • Focus on the actions you can take to get you closer to what you want and value

The 8 domains

  1. Mental/Physical Wellbeing & Self-Care
  2. Intimate Love Relationship
  3. Pursuit & Finances
  4. Parenting & Family
  5. Spirituality & Faith
  6. Friendship & Community
  7. Personal Growth & Learning
  8. Artistic Expression/Adventure/Leisure

Going beyond the practice

Everytime I step out of my comfort zone into my discomfort zone, I’m going to be uncomfortable for a little while but I’m going to get over it and I’m going to learn by doing.

As Kathryn was exploring some big ideas and how to move beyond her practice she had a lot of negative self-talk, but as she kept on moving and going after those big ideas, her comfort zone grew bigger.

Refining your message

  • Hire a coach or form a team.
  • Avoid doing things on your own, ask for help from an expert who can guide you.
  • Refrain from overwhelming yourself.

Imperfect Thriving

You have to let yourself do it imperfectly, to let yourself do it at all.

If you hold yourself to a standard of perfection and you fall short, which you inevitably will, you’ll beat yourself up for it and that’s negative reinforcement. You have to do and try because that is how you learn.

Click here to access the Blueprint To Thrive

Books mentioned in this episode

Useful Links:

Meet Joe Sanok

private practice consultant

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

Thanks For Listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[JOE SANOK]: This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 450.
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Welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast. I’m Joe Sanok, your host and I hope that your quarantine, your lockdown is going as well as it could. This is a very interesting time for our world and we can only hope that that things change and that things get under control. But what we do have control of is ourselves and I’m learning that with two girls here at home and my wife and we are doing the very best we can. And we hope for you that that’s what’s happening as well.
You know, our Next Level Practice community, it’s been awesome to see how supportive everyone has been of one another in sharing ideas and resources and multiple streams of income. And you know, we don’t want to be opportunistic in the sense that we’re slimy or doing anything that is just, you know, using this sort of coronavirus as an opportunity but we also need to keep our businesses afloat. We need to work on a number of different areas. So, make sure that you’re a part of a community that can help you and that can help you grow during this time and hopefully attract clients. Because you know, when people ask me, you know, it’s counseling, we’re going to die from this. I think, well, are people more anxious and worried now than they were before this? And they’re almost like always yeah. Of course, they are.
And when people are anxious and worried, would you say they need more or less counseling services? More. Okay, then we need to be out there talking about this. We need to be on the news, we need to be writing for the newspaper, we need to be making Facebook lives. We need to be telling people in our communities what they need to do to stay more grounded. And you know, things are moving on. Kathryn Ely who’s on the show today, she launched the Imperfect Thriving podcast, this amazing podcast for women in their forties, fifties and sixties that want to thrive imperfectly. She’s part of our Practice of the Practice podcast network, which by the end of quarter two will have 12 podcasts under that network banner. So, at is where you can see all of those. But today, without any further ado, I give you Kathryn Ely.
[JOE]: Well, today on the Practice of the Practice podcast, we have Kathryn Ely. Kathryn has the Imperfect Thriving podcast and is also a private practitioner. Kathryn, welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast.
[KATHRYN]: I’m so excited to be here, Joe.
[JOE]: So excited to have you. Kathryn, we’ve known each other for a few months and to just watch you grow with your podcast and with your private practice, it’s just so exciting.
[KATHRYN]: Let me tell you, I mean, I listened to your podcast religiously, so it’s almost surreal to be here on my own.
[JOE]: Oh man. You know, why don’t we go back a little bit? Tell us a little bit about your private practice, kind of how that developed and then I’d love to get into when you decided that there was something bigger that goes beyond the private practice. So, take us back maybe a year or two, tell us about how you had built up your private practice and what that looked like.
[KATHRYN]: So, I’m a recovering attorney. I realized, that I was just kind of going through the motions and really putting all my time and effort into helping my children and my husband live their best lives, which I loved. I absolutely loved doing, but I was also kind of letting myself go along the way, putting everything into everyone else and not growing, not thriving. I didn’t have any one single thing for myself. And I realized that two of my children were going to be going to college soon and I did not want to go back to being an attorney. It just didn’t light me up inside. And so, I really had to dig deep and figure out what I needed to do for myself personally so that when my children left, I wouldn’t just be this empty vessel.
So, I really thought about it and counseling was going to be the thing and it was really scary because I was going to have to go back to school in my mid-forties, to get a master’s degree in clinical mental health to do this. So, there were a lot of limiting beliefs, a lot of things that tried to get in my way, but ultimately it was the greatest thing I’ve ever done because I discovered myself along the way and how I had been limiting myself. So, not only did I get the second career that I’m so passionate about, that I love so much, I did all the work in discovering who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live. So, it was just like the most wonderful thing ever.
[JOE]: Yeah. I mean I can imagine if you’ve put in all that time in school and to becoming an attorney, it could be very easy to say, I’m going to just stay down this path versus let me try something completely different. How did you make that switch to decide that this kind of established career that you were going to be going in a different direction?
[KATHRYN]: So, I guess when I just started thinking, you know, what do I want the rest of my life to look like? You know, my life is potentially half over. Do I want to spend the second half the way I spent living the first half and I knew that I didn’t? I knew that I was really limiting myself. I knew that I was really anxious and nervous and holding my real self in and holding my real self-back and going back to being an attorney was just going to perpetuate that and it just wasn’t who I was and who I wanted to be. I just didn’t know what that was yet, but I knew I needed to go into a different direction to find it.
[JOE]: Wow. So then when you started your practice, your practice gets going and, kind of what was helpful in launching that practice?
[KATHRYN]: The most helpful thing was something that happened to me about three months before I graduated. It’s funny to even say this now because I’m talking to you on a podcast, but my biggest fear was public speaking. Any, I mean like even standing up in class and speaking, even though I was a lawyer, even though I’ve spoken in front of classes many times, it was just the scariest thing in the world to me. And I got an email from a professor that said, “Okay, in two days you’re going to have to make a presentation to a bunch of people in education in the auditorium at UAB.” And I just was like, “Okay, I’m going to have to quit school like that. If it’s that or not finishing, I’m just going to have to not finish.
It freaked me out. But because of what I had been learning in counseling and what I had learned about myself and having anxiety and the theory that I’ve grasped on to, the theory that I found that I knew I wanted to use in counseling, I used it on myself and I put what was most important to me in between me and that fear so that I could work through it and step way out of my comfort zone into extreme, almost into panic and get up in front of people. So, it was my value of what I wanted to accomplish in the world once I graduated that got me through that. And it was that realization that fueled my ability to start my own practice, to focus on what I focus on and to do everything I’ve done since then.
[JOE]: Yeah, and so what were some maybe trends you noticed in women in their forties, fifties and sixties, because that ends up being, you know, your target listener for your podcast. Like what trends did you notice in private practice and then maybe we can dive into how that led into the podcast? So, I want to start with what were you noticing in private practice there were trends with women in their forties, fifties and sixties?
[KATHRYN]: I noticed so many women were like me, that they were anxious, that they weren’t fulfilled because they were living by very rigid rules that they had picked up along the way from society, from parents, from teachers of how their lives were supposed to be. And they were spending their time and their energy and efforts trying to live perfectly up to all of these rules. And they weren’t fulfilled. They weren’t excited to get out of bed in the morning. They weren’t digging down to, they weren’t even asking themselves, “What do I want and what do I want my life to be about?”
[JOE]: Yeah, that’s a scary question. I would imagine, for some people to kind of step into. You know, my wife, she just turned 40. We had a big eighties, you know, 40th birthday party here at our house and I shaved my beard into a handlebar mustache and it was an awesome party. We stayed up way too late but the kids were at, you know, my parents’ house. But, so for someone like her, like, what should I know about just what women deal with when they’re going through their forties, fifties and sixties? Like as someone that loves her deeply, what’s something that, you know, as a white man, I have a lot of privilege, there’s probably a lot of things that I don’t even recognize. And there may even be, you know, women like her that don’t know mindsets that might creep in. Like, how can I be supportive during that time? But also, you know, what would you hope that women in their forties, fifties and sixties, would learn or embrace during those decades?
[KATHRYN]: That is such a great question. And, I love hearing how much you want to support your wife. That is so awesome. I think what women come in with is the living by these particular shoulds. And there are some very, I’m seeing a pattern of shoulds that really stand out in women, especially of my generation. I’m not sure if they are there as much for the next, but it is women should all always be caring for others, women should always be putting others first and that self-care is selfish. And I think that we, that fuels us toward doing everything for everyone else and never stopping to ask what do I want and what do I need? So, I think that that’s just a pattern that I’ve seen in client after client. So, I think anything you can do to encourage your wife to have her one thing outside of taking care of others. You know, to take the time to not let go of the things that bring her joy.
One thing that I did that a lot of my clients do is if they think I must always be taking care of others or this is my job. They do less and less and they make less and less time for the things that they enjoy. And that’s kind of, you get to, your kids get ready to go off to school and you’re like, “I’ve put my 100% in over the years for my family and I’ve, I don’t know what I like anymore. I haven’t been doing it for so long.” And then there’s also the thing of, the sort of not valuing yourself enough and therefore not having confidence in your ability to figure out what to do next.
[JOE]: So, when you work with women, how do you help them find that value, find that one thing, discover it?
[KATHRYN]: So, I have kind of put together a program and sort of a template that I use with my clients, different ways at different times. But the first thing that we do is uncover their limiting beliefs because there are always limiting beliefs that are keeping them from moving forward. It might be at that point, “I’m too old to learn anything new. I don’t know what’s, I don’t know how to use technology. I’m not who I used to be.” They really focus on how great they were when they were younger. It might be, I don’t know how to do anything else but raise children. So, we really have to unearth and uncover the limiting beliefs that are keeping them stuck first.
Then I move on to what do you really want your life to look like? And the way that I do that is show them the eight different domains that I’ve created, the areas, that’s just a fancy way of saying area of their life. And I go through each one and say, “Okay, what negative stories or negative beliefs bleed over into this particular area of your life?” Then we dig down really deep to find out what’s most important to them, what they value, what they want to be known for in this domain of their life. And once you figure out, and that takes a little while because they have to peel back the layers of what should they want to get down to the bottom of what they really want. And then we figure out the actions they can take to get them closer to what they want and what they value. And it’s really an amazing transformation.
[JOE]: Wow. So, when you say those eight domains, do you mind just kind of going through some of those to help us really kind of get a concept of how you’ve kind of created a map for people?
[KATHRYN]: Yes. Now don’t hold me to all eight right now.
[JOE]: That’s totally fine. Maybe just whatever ones would you would say really stand out and that, you know, are ones that maybe are the first couple of domains for someone to think through.
[KATHRYN]: Absolutely. So, the first one, and I put it first for a reason because I believe it’s most important is mental and physical wellbeing and self-care. And we work on that first because if you’ve been putting everyone else first over a lot of years, you may not think you are as important as everyone else. And to me, for you to ever focus on self-care, we must first work on self-value. You have to value yourself enough to put forth the effort for self-care. And it needs to be a focus at the beginning because women who have been doing for others for so long have let their own mental and physical wellbeing go. So, there’s a transformation that has to happen there first. So that’s where we start. And then the second one is intimate love relationship. The third one is parenting and family of origin. Then there’s spirituality and faith. So then pursuit and finances. It really does encompass every major area of our lives.
[JOE]: Yeah. And so, when did you kind of start to shift towards saying, “This is a message that goes beyond my clinical work in the practice?”
[KATHRYN]: So, I think it was, you know, when I started my practice, it was the realization that, “Oh, there are more people out there like me.” And the more I kept doing it, the more I kept seeing the same kind of patterns, the same kind of limiting beliefs, and I thought, “Okay, first of all, everybody can’t afford to come to me individually.” And I know that. There’s a privilege involved there. What can I do to help more people faster than them just coming to me one on one in my office? Now there’s more than I can do one on one, than I can do over a podcast, right? Because I can’t speak individually, have that person speak back to me and talk about their individual needs. But I still think there’s a need for it and it’s a service that I feel strongly about providing to people that can’t get to my office.
[JOE]: So, when you started to realize that, what were some of your first steps to kind of evaluate going beyond just the practice?
[KATHRYN]: Well, I knew I wanted to find a way to connect with people that I could potentially help and I wasn’t exactly sure what that was going to be yet. And so that’s when I reached out to you.
[JOE]: Wow, I was the first one that’s, I didn’t realize that I was the first one.
[KATHRYN]: Yes, that’s exactly when I reached out to you because see what I’ve learned about myself and about comfort zones in general is if you think about something that’s scary for too long, you won’t do it. And so I wanted someone to talk to who I knew had done great things and had big ideas and help people with their big ideas to come up with a way to go about it and to not think about it too long on my own to where I just crawled back into my shell.
[JOE]: Right, right. Well tell me a little bit about, in the process that we’ve done of helping you launch a podcast, build out your email course and soon launch some products, what insecurities has that brought out or maybe what were the challenges that you overcame throughout that process?
[KATHRYN]: Yeah. Well, there are definitely insecurities that, I mean, the negative talk doesn’t completely go away. I just choose to ignore it now. So, you know, the talk that came out for me was, “Well, why do you think anybody is going to really need to know what you have to say? Like, what’s so important about you?” But the way I get past that is just sort of thinking it’s not for me. It’s not about me. It’s about what I value and it’s not going to keep me from putting it out there and seeing if it can help anyone else. I’m getting over myself and thinking about any good that it could do someone else. And so, it’s that coupled with the fact that I have realized that I can be safe and I can be comfortable and I can stay in that zone.
And then I kind of see a circle right beyond that zone, which I call my discomfort zone or my uncomfortable zone. And then right outside is the panic zone. And I’ve realized that every time I step out of my comfort zone into my discomfort zone, I’m going to be uncomfortable for a little while, but I’m going to get over it and I’m going to learn by doing and therefore I’ve enlarged my comfort zone out to where my discomfort zone used to be. And my panic zone becomes my discomfort zone. And as long as I keep moving in that direction, my comfort zone gets bigger and bigger. But it’s not just that, it’s that I feel more confident and feel more alive when I’m challenging myself in that way.
[JOE]: Yeah. And what about, maybe talk about the process of really refining what your message was going to be. So I remember working on the domains and working on your email course, for anyone that’s building a podcast, whether or not they work with us, you know, to give them some value, what was helpful for you in kind of sorting out your message, sorting out your ideal client and listener, building out that email course. What would you say are some of your key takeaways from that process of honing in on your message?
[KATHRYN]: Part of the thing I would say first of all is don’t try to do it all by yourself. Every coach and every counselor and every person in the world can benefit from outside help. And the first thing I would do is, well, I mean I would get you as my coach, but if not you, I would get a coach because you and your team helped me stay on track and helped break it down into bite size pieces to where it wasn’t overwhelming. And I think when you’re taking on a big idea, the most important part is to keep it from being overwhelming because overwhelm is going to force you to quit.
[JOE]: Yeah, and I see that a lot with people launching big ideas where they aren’t sure what to do next. They’ve got this big kind of jumble of ideas but to be able to say, “Okay, first you’re going to build out the email course, or actually first you’re going to figure out your message, then build out your email course, then sketch out your first solo shows, then sketch out your interview shows, then sketch out your consulting shows. Then when we have 10 episodes recorded, we’re going to launch and to just have it be, here’s the natural next step. You don’t have to worry about all these things down the pipe right now in front of you. This is what you need to worry about. I love being able to have that just step by step. You know, don’t worry about all this other stuff right now. Just take a breath and do this thing that’s right in front of you.
[KATHRYN]: That was the absolute key. It was I didn’t have to be the one plotting out the next steps. I could focus solely on the step that I had in front of me and just do the work.
[JOE]: Yeah, and I think that when you have that, you can then put your best work into that, rather than worrying about all the other things.
[KATHRYN]: Absolutely. Yes, that is key. That helped me so much.
[JOE]: In regards to honing in your message, what was most helpful that could be a takeaway for people that, you know, maybe they want to bootstrap it and do it on their own? What were some of the things that we covered in consulting that for you where you, whether they’re exercises or activities that just helped you say, “Oh, like here’s what I want to reach and here’s what my message is.”
[KATHRYN]: Oh, that would be everything out of your mouth. So that’s going to be hard to come up with one saying. It was really, every session that I had with you and every person that I spoke to on your team was able to come up with the right question to get me to think about what I needed to give in the very best way, if that makes any sense. Like, because you all know what the next step is and because you all know how to do it all, it was a very easy process of me coming up with the thoughts and the ideas on my end because the right questions were asked.
[JOE]: Well, Kathryn, I’m not sure who’s going to benefit more from this interview because you are definitely making us sound really good. So, I appreciate that. But you’re, I mean, your podcast is so awesome. Just a few things that I wanted to note about it. And so, I’ve shared it with a bunch of my friends and their wives and they are really resonating with it and just the idea of Imperfect Thriving. And so, you know, I was there when we kind of came up with that name and that was kind of language you were using. What does imperfect thriving mean to you?
[KATHRYN]: So, it means that I held myself to a standard of perfection for, you know, 46, 48 years and what that caused me to do was to not try new things. Because if you hold yourself to a standard of perfection and you fall short, which you inevitably will because we’re not perfect, and then you beat yourself up for it, that’s negative reinforcement for never trying anything else. And it keeps your life small. It kept my life small and I’ve seen it in client after client, after client. So Imperfect Thriving is about going and doing and trying. And that’s how you learn. You have to let yourself do it imperfectly to let yourself do it at all.
[JOE]: Oh, I love that. Well, Kathryn, the last question I always ask is if every private practitioner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?
[KATHRYN]: Oh, and I’ve heard you ask that question of like hundreds of different people and I just should’ve thought about it ahead of time. I would want private practitioners to know that I feel like women in mid-life are often overlooked because they might not have clinical depression. They might not have textbook anxiety, but they are greatly holding themselves back from the lives that they want. And part of it is because they tell themselves, “I should be happy. I don’t have anything really wrong. I should be happy.” So, dig in there and don’t be at all dismissive of these clients who maybe don’t have issues that are clinical because they really are not. They’re limiting themselves and not living their best lives.
[JOE]: Oh, that’s so awesome. Well, if any of you listening are interested in podcasting, we have a free email course all about podcasting over at That’s also the best way to reach out to us if you’re interested in the Done for You Services that Kathryn joined us for. Kathryn, you also have a nine-part email course. Maybe tell us a little bit about that course and how people can sign up for it.
[KATHRYN]: Yeah, so they can go to my website, and I call it the Blueprint to Thrive because it is what I do with my clients in session. Of course it can’t be as in-depth or as personalized, but there’s a quick start that you get immediately that helps you walk through assessing your domains, where you’re satisfied and where you’re not, and that really points you toward where you can do the work to become more fulfilled. Then the email course takes you through step by step how to figure out your unlimiting beliefs and the things that are in your way, how to get to the bottom of what you really want, and how to figure out the actions that will take you there.
[JOE]: Oh, so awesome. So that’s Kathryn Ely, thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice podcast.
[KATHRYN]: Thank you, Joe. It’s been so much fun.
[JOE]: Well, I just love seeing these podcasts launch. You know, having two girls of my own and wanting to raise them to thrive imperfectly is really exciting. I am right now wrapping up the book Untamed by Glennon Doyle and my wife was reading it and she said, “Joe if you really want to understand kind of the mental judo a lot of us go through as women, you should read this book.” So, I’ve been reading it with her and it’s really helpful. It’s been very helpful for me to just understand more and more of my own privilege as a man and how to raise girls and how to also, kind of allow them to be their own selves. So that’s been something that’s been a lot of fun too.
Well, thanks so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have an amazing day.
Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. We really like it. And this podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.

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